Saturday, June 16, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 24

As you might expect, this week’s writing prompt is Father’s Day. I have written extensively about my dad in other blog posts, so I am going a different direction this week. Another important “father” in my life was Father Francis Ostdiek, from whom I received my First Holy Communion.
Holy Trinity October 2017
Father Ostdiek was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1913. In 1920 he was given the responsibility for building first a church and then a school to establish Holy Trinity parish in Des Moines, Iowa. Bishop Thomas Drumm gave him $500 and a plat of land at Beaver and Adams Streets. With $100, he purchased a former Knights of Columbus hut from Camp Dodge, which he dismantled and moved to the new location to serve as a temporary church. By the next year he built a combination school and church, and in January of 1922 thirteen students attended the school.

Holy Trinity School
We moved to Des Moines in 1960, and our new home fell within the boundaries of Holy Trinity. It was there that my brother and I began our education at the parish school, riding the school bus from our home in northwest Des Moines. I remember that Father was very visible in the school building, and of course we saw him each morning at mass before the school day began. From Father Ostdiek I learned what it meant to be not only a good Catholic, but a good person as well. He taught us to be kind to one another, and to help others in need. He was an incredible example of walking the talk.

Father Ostdiek ~1960s
Due to tremendous growth in the Catholic population in the early 1960s, part of Holy Trinity was divided off to attend the newly constructed St. Mary of Nazareth Church located a few miles from Holy Trinity. When the church boundaries were redrawn, our street fell into the new parish. Beginning in 1965, we attended Sunday mass at our new church. However my brother and I continued to attend school at Holy Trinity. Father Ostdiek remained pastor of the church the entire time we were there, retiring in 1969 after serving the parish for 49 years!

On 4 October 1979, at the age of 91 he greeted Pope John Paul II from his wheelchair when the Pope visited Des Moines on his U.S. tour. The Pope reportedly said, “You could not come to see me in Rome, so I came to you in Iowa.” That certainly must have been a highlight in Father Ostdiek's life, which ended on 6 June 1981 at the age of 93. He lived a long and holy life, and I am grateful that he was part of mine during the years when my faith was in its infancy.
Father Ostdiek meets Pope John Paul II

Saturday, June 9, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 23

Kirche St. Peter
We are Going to the Chapel with this week’s writing prompt, and my approach is to write about an old ancestral church that I visited. The oldest church (or perhaps I should say portion of a church) where ancestors worshipped that I have seen in person is the Kirche St. Peter in Büsserach, Switzerland. This Roman Catholic Church stands on a hill on the south side of Büsserach, which currently has a population of 2,251. About 76% of the village is Catholic. While a 1759 church was demolished in 1951 to make way for the existing building, the attached tower dating back to 1464 is still standing.

bells
Within the tower is a museum containing photographs and relics of the church’s history. When I visited in 2013, my host arranged for a private tour of the museum. It was fascinating to see all the displays, and climb the steps to the top of the tower. I counted at least five bells. Did one of my ancestors ever climb the stairs with the responsibility of ringing the church bells to call parishioners to Mass?

painting of the old church
There were many death memorials hanging on the wall with my maiden name Kübler on them. I took photographs, even though I am not sure how they fit into my tree. But the most interesting and exciting thing for me to see was the antique baptismal font, which I was told would have been the exact one used to baptize members of my Kübler family, who emigrated to the United States in 1854.

baptismal font
Walking in the town where they lived, seeing the sites that they saw every day, and finally "going to the chapel" where they worshipped all gave me an opportunity to travel back in time and experience a bit how they had lived. And to wonder all over again, how did they ever leave it all behind?

Büsserach, Switzerland

Saturday, June 2, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 22

For the writing prompt So Far Away, I decided to take a less literal interpretation of the theme. Instead of looking at an ancestor who came to America from far away, or talk about visiting a research center in a distant location, I wanted to write about an ancestor whose occupation was very far away from the woodworkers, salesmen, railroad employees, etc. that I normally find with my male ancestors. Let’s talk show biz, instead.

My second great-uncle, John P. Hungler, was born on 2 November 1876 in Covington, Kentucky. His parents were John and Anna (Hightower) Hungler. His brother Albert was my paternal great-grandfather.

John was 26 years old and working as a tobacco salesman in London, Kentucky when he married 20-year-old Mabel Lillie on 26 November 1904 in Highland County, Ohio. Highland County is located about 70 miles northwest of where John was living. It is interesting that they got married in Highland, especially since Mabel's family was in Michigan at that time.

November 1910
Not long into their marriage John and Mable became vaudevillians, performing under the stage names of Jack and Mable Price. Vaudeville shows, one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the United States and Canada from the 1880s until the early 1930s, were made up of a series of separate acts grouped together on a common bill. The acts might include comedians, singers, plate-spinners, ventriloquists, dancers, musicians, and animal trainers. The shows played to all economic classes in various auditoriums or theaters. It was on the vaudeville circuit that the saying “Will it play in Peoria?” was coined, meaning that if an act could succeed in Peoria, it would work anywhere.

I have been able to locate several newspaper clippings announcing the appearance of Jack and Mable Price. Their shows were comedy and singing skits, some of which were extremely racist. A listing in the November 6, 1910 Pittsburg Press for the Family Theater on Fifth Avenue in New York stated that “Jack and Mabel Price, known as the ‘two corkers in cork’, will entertain with a black face comedy.” Another act was entitled “Chief Tenderhoe”, for which a reviewer proclaimed that Jack “is certainly an Indian of wonderful strength and his act i [sic] a big novelty." My dad remembered being told that at one performance the audience was so incensed that an Indian had abducted a white woman, several men ran onto the stage. Jack and Mabel had to escape through a back door.

In the 1930s, vaudeville began a steady decline and by the end of the decade it was dead. The Depression affected attendance, and the popularity of talking and singing movies also provided fierce competition.

It is unclear what year Jack and Mable Price went back to their lives as John and Mable Hungler, but the 1930 census indicates that they were living in Leoni Township, Michigan. My father said that they had a nice house on a lake there, as well as an additional residence in Florida. Their shows must have played well in Peoria!

They never had any children, which makes you wonder who inherited their estate. John died in Michigan in May of 1946 at the age of 69, and Mable was 67 when she died in Michigan in July of 1951.

Old actors never die, they just lose their parts.